After Daniel Craig’s swan song as 007 in No Time to Die, attention has inevitably turned to who will be the next James Bond. While producer Barbara Broccoli has said we’ll be waiting until 2022 to find out, that only gives us more time to zero in on the most likely candidates to take on the iconic role.
The best thing about the post-Craig era is that the next James Bond could be anyone., Rege-Jean Page, Daniel Kaluuya, Dev Patel, and many more could reinvent the character to great effect. Then there are the mainstays – Henry Cavill, Tom Hardy, Idris Elba – that are still part of the leading pack and, crucially, all look good in a tuxedo. There’s even a chance that new 007, Nomi, played by Lashana Lynch, could take the franchise into new territory.
We’ve got intel on all the candidates: 17 actors who have been whispered about or – cards on the table – we just really, really want to be considered to be the next James Bond. Now, for your eyes only…
Obvious? Maybe. But there’s a reason why the British actor’s currently the bookies’ favourite to take over from Daniel Craig. Hardy has showcased his action chops in the likes of The Dark Knight Rises and Mad Max: Fury Road, going showing a physical transformation throughout his career that would lend itself to a heavy hitting Bond.
One thing that may count against Hardy – especially if the Bond producers are thinking long-term – is his age. Hardy will be nearing his 50s by the time the cameras get rolling. It’s no real roadblock for someone of Hardy’s talents – but the franchise could go in a different, younger direction. Roger Moore in A View to a Kill should be a cautionary tale.
Another household name, another Bond frontrunner. Those who have seen Henry Cavill in The Man from UNCLE will know that stepping into a tux won’t be much of a problem for the Man of Steel actor. He’s got the looks, charm, and could easily slide into the role with minimum fuss. Cavill even previously auditioned for the role, losing out to Craig in 2005 when he was just 22 years old.
However, there are many marks against Cavill, though none are of his own making. He’s wrapped up in Netflix’s The Witcher series for the time being, which has a third season commissioned and will seriously eat into his production schedule. There’s also a small chance he’s not quite done with the Superman cape just yet. There’s also the fact that the Bond head honchos don’t usually go for an actor with huge name recognition. That’s not their style, so Cavill might be ruled out on that alone.
Idris Elba is bloody cool, isn’t he? On that alone, he should be Bond. Then you look at his body of work: from The Wire to Beasts of No Nation and beyond, Elba has showcased his considerable talents across big-budget blockbusters, small-scale crime dramas, and so much more.
It’s Luther, the British series that sees Elba play a London detective, that offers the most compelling case to become the first Black actor to play Bond. His presence is unmatched, and Luther has gone toe-to-toe (and often punch for punch) with a rogues’ gallery that wouldn’t look out of place in a 007 flick. Did we also mention he’s really, really cool?
Again, age could work against the actor – Elba’s entering his 50s. Plus, for his part, Elba told Capital XTRA in early 2021 that he’s aware of the rumours – but content with his lot. “I know the rumours about Bond have always chased me,” he said. “Listen, my poor mum is like ‘One day you’re going to get it!’ I was like ‘Mum, I’m good, I’ve got Luther!’ I’m definitely doing that.”
Thanks to his role as the Duke of Hastings in Netflix’s Bridgerton, Rege-Jean Page has shot to the front of many people’s next James Bond lists, establishing himself as a charming favourite – and the most likely to leave audiences feeling a little hot under the collar.
Page even has a former Bond’s seal of approval, with Pierce Brosnan telling Entertainment Tonight that he would be a “wonderful” choice to replace Bond.
Even if the whole Bond thing doesn’t shake out, Page has another spy project in the works. Ironically, it’s a reboot of The Saint, the show that put Roger Moore on the map before he made the leap to the Bond franchise.
Lashana Lynch, who plays new 007 agent Nomi in No Time to Die, is someone who has been spoken about in hushed tones as someone who could maybe, just maybe, take over as the series’ new lead. Her performance in No Time To Die has been met with positive reviews, critics citing her character’s straight-shooting attitude and aptitude with a quip or two. Lynch becoming the new lead would be a major step forward, and would mean rethinking how audiences see the franchise – potentially as a series without James Bond at the center, but a new 007.
On the topic of a potential female James Bond, the creatives behind the series look set to keep the character male. Producer Barbara Broccoli told the Press Association (H/T The Independent) that “James Bond is a male character,” while Daniel Craig said James Bond shouldn’t be played by a woman – because there’s a need for strong female roles away from the long shadow of an iconic male character.
“The answer to that is very simple,” he said in a Radio Times interview. “There should simply be better parts for women and actors of colour. Why should a woman play James Bond when there should be a part just as good as James Bond, but for a woman?”
Nomi’s certainly a great female part – the question remains whether the producers are ready to move forward without James Bond as the series’ lead.
A good secret agent needs to be a jack of all trades. Cillian Murphy is a step above that, often disappearing into his roles in everything from dramatic lead in Peaky Blinders to a member of a horror ensemble in A Quiet Place Part 2. And those are just recent projects.
There’s little wonder, then, that Murphy’s in the frame to play James Bond – he’s got the action chops, the looks, the style, the swagger, and just about anything else that’s ever been associated with the role. The only question mark might be whether Murphy can truly hold up a franchise. He’s never been one to court the limelight, more often playing a quirky secondary player than a main character. Murphy’s now also one of the older candidates at 45 years old.
Anyone who has seen Sam Heughan in either Outlander or SAS: Red Notice will know the Scot would comfortably marry Daniel Craig’s softer sensibilities with the modern-day muscular tendencies required to be an all-out action hero. Red Notice, more than most projects, felt like a secret audition for Bond – one passed with flying colours.
Heughan is one of many actors to address speculation on whether he’d want to play Bond. He told Esquire: “He’s a great character, and would certainly be a fascinating character study and place to kick off.” At 41, though, Heughan risks falling into the ‘not quite spritely enough to lead a new action franchise for the next 20 years’ – a category many speculators believe the next James Bond will likely fall into.
Richard Madden certainly fits the mould of the next Bond: a recognisable actor, but not too much of a big name, stoic when he needs to be, and always has a one-liner handy. Madden’s career so far has seen him lead and lead well – The Bodyguard and Game of Thrones are both highly skilled performances that should have Bond producers eyeing him up as a potential Bond.
At 35, Madden is also slightly younger than Daniel Craig was when cast as 007, so the franchise’s long-term future would be in safe hands. The only question mark would be whether he could juggle appearing in the MCU as Eternals’ Ikaris alongside playing Bond.
The mere thought of having a Bond born in the ‘90s may turn some of us to dust, but Dev Patel would fit the character like a glove. His age counts in his favour, but it’s his continually more accomplished performances throughout his relatively short career that make him rise above most other candidates.
The Green Knight has cemented Patel as one of Hollywood’s leading lights, while stints in The Newsroom and The Personal History of David Copperfield show off a more restrained side that’s often required for the Bond job.
Speaking to Total Film, Patel expressed faint bemusement at being linked with Bond, but is happy to be part of the conversation. “I don’t know why that is,” he said. “I guess that I should take it as a compliment. But I feel like hasn’t every young British actor been associated with Bond at some point, I’m sure?”
Tom Hiddleston may lack the physical presence of a Daniel Craig or Sean Connery but you only need to look at his lead role in BBC miniseries The Night Manager to see why he’s tailor made to be the next Bond. Emphasis on tailor.
Yes, he looks annoyingly good in a suit and, yes, he seems to ooze charisma across from any female lead (both hallmarks of any Bond actor), but he’s also got a believably silver tongue and would look just as comfortable striding the halls of MI6 as he would in some far-flung Mediterranean locale. Barbara Broccoli may not want to opt for the easy Bond choice but, if she does, Tom Hiddleston is right there. The only issue may be balancing Bond with future seasons of Loki, which looks set to continue on Disney Plus.
If you believe the bookmakers, James Norton is never too far away from being the next Bond, Doctor Who, or both.
His McMafia character, Alex, may be the polar opposite to Bond in a lot of respects, but they share the same fabric. Each commands a room and each presents a growling façade that can be peeled away at any moment to show off a more brutal, narcissistic side.
As the above entries have made clear, a lot of boxes need to be ticked for Bond – not least a not-too-lofty celebrity presence and not too many years on the birth certificate. James Norton hasn’t been overexposed and has many decades as a sterling actor ahead – so now could be the perfect time for him to be the next James Bond.
“It is the opportunity for change,” Henry Golding told The Guardian back in September 2020 when asked about James Bond. “Be it female, male, bi, gay, straight, trans, Asian, black, Latina.”
Golding could be part of that wave of change, becoming the first Asian actor to play Bond. He’s already built up a solid resume, starring in Snake Eyes, Crazy Rich Asians, The Gentlemen, and Last Christmas. Arguably, each showcases a different side to Bond, from action hero, all the way through to tender heart. However, Snake Eyes proved a box-office bomb, which may work against Golding.
From Billy Elliot to James Bond? It’s not too much of a stretch to suggest Jamie Bell take on the role – especially as his path follows Daniel Craig’s own career trajectory of knocking it out of the park in smaller budget films before making the leap to MI6.
Those who only know him from the ill-fated 2015 Fantastic Four reboot should seek out Snowpiercer, Rocketman, and his BAFTA-nominated role in Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool for a taste of his talents. Bell’s yet to have that blockbuster leading role – perhaps Bond could finally be it.
Boyega’s already thrown his hat into the ring to be the next Bond. “We could show them something different,” he told MTV when asked about starring as Bond in a movie with Small Axe collaborator Steve McQueen. “We still bring this sophistication. You know, James Bond has to be James Bond. But we could do something with that.”
Boyega would certainly be a popular and comfortable choice given his days anchoring the Star Wars sequel trilogy as ex-Stormtrooper Finn. Plus, the actor has shown capable of anchoring a big blockbuster, having been at the center of Pacific Rim Uprising and Kathryn Bigelow’s Detroit. Working against Boyega would be his name recognition.
With one billion dollar movie already under his belt in Beauty and the Beast, Dan Stevens already has the Goldfinger-like Midas touch – though the actor was, of course, cloaked in CGI as the titular Beast. Without the effects, can Stevens be a truly intimidating physical threat like Bond? Well, look at the actor’s work in Legion, the X-Men spin-off series, and you can see the potential for an introspective, yet frenetic 00-agent to shoot down the barrel. Or, better yet, look at Netflix’s Eurovision movie to see the actor’s sheer amount of range. There’s no doubting his abilities – perhaps Bond could be the role he was born to play.
James Bond movies don’t always bring in multi-faceted actors to play 007. Roger Moore could be one-note, while Timothy Dalton always played his Bond harder than most. Make no mistake: Daniel Kaluuya wouldn’t be quite so one-dimensional.
One of the finest actors of his generation, Kaluuya can juggle the demands of the role. It may not be the 32-year-old’s most notable work, but his role in Widows highlights the dangerous presence needed for Bond. Then there’s his Oscar-winning performance in Judas and the Black Messiah that proves Kaluuya can be the most dominant presence in any room. Again, arguably an already known name – and that’s not quite Bond’s style. But Kaluuya has the ability to take the role in any direction.
Not yet a household name – a good thing for a prospective Bond – Clive Standen has starred in Vikings, Camelot, and BBC series Robin Hood, each role allowing him to showcase all manner of style and suaveness across the ages, capturing the timeless quality that Bond requires. Perhaps his most obvious Bond-like role is playing the lead character in the Taken TV series, based on the Liam Neeson-starring Taken movies.
Curiously, Standen’s one of the few consistent frontrunners with bookmakers. Do they know something we don’t?
The search may be ongoing, but the above names could all be the ones to take the James Bond franchise into the future.
Now, a look to the past: we’ve ranked all of the best Bond movies. If you’re planning a 007 marathon, here’s a guide on how to watch the James Bond movies in order.
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